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Emerson Hardcover – May 25, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; 1st edition (May 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674011392
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674011397
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #756,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

This is a splendid book, an important one, and one that will have wide appeal. This will be an indispensable book on Emerson, putting the keys to that complex man and his work into the reader's hand. If you want to know why we are still reading and talking about Emerson, start here.
--Robert Richardson, author of Emerson: The Mind on Fire and Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind.

Lawrence Buell has made it his business to set forth exciting new lines of inquiry. He has done so once again: bringing Emerson up to date, moving him away from a nation-based paradigm, and firing him up as an entry point to a global, cross-lingual circuit.
--Wai Chee Dimock, author of Empire for Liberty.

This book is a literary-cultural event: the harvest of the past half-century of Emersonian revaluations and the harbinger, guide, and provocation for the next generations of Emerson scholars and critics. One cannot call a work on Emerson definitive, even provisionally, but I cannot imagine that any Americanist - or for that matter, anyone interested in America, specialist or non-specialist -- will be able to do without this book in the foreseeable future.
--Sacvan Bercovitch, author of The American Jeremiad, and The Puritan Origins of the American Self.

This a splendid book, an important one, and one that will have wide appeal. This will be an indispensable book on Emerson, putting the keys to that complex man and his work into the reader's hand. If you want to know why we are still reading and talking about Emerson, start here.
--Robert Richardson, author of Emerson: The Mind on Fire and Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind

Lawrence Buell has made it his business to set forth exciting new lines of inquiry. He has done so once again: bringing Emerson up to date, moving him away from a nation-based paradigm, and firing him up as an entry point to a global, cross-lingual circuit.
--Wai Chee Dimock, author of Empire for Liberty

This book is a literary-cultural event: the harvest of the past half-century of Emersonian revaluations and the harbinger, guide, and provocation for the next generations of Emerson scholars and critics. One cannot call a work on Emerson definite, even provisionally, but I cannot imagine that any Americanist--or, for that matter, anyone interested in America, specialist or nonspecialist--will be able to do without this book in the foreseeable future.
--Sacvan Bercovitch, author of The American Jeremaid and The Puritan Origins of the American Self

I learned from and greatly enjoyed reading Lawrence Buell's Emerson.
--Susan Sontag (Times Literary Supplement 2003-12-05)

Lawrence Buell has written a comprehensive, penetrating and timely study, the distillation of a lifetime's scholarship, of this great thinker and writer, 'the poet of ordinary days,' as his disciple, John Dewey, beautifully called him.
--John Banville (Irish Times 2003-11-01)

In this book Buell distills a lifetime of study and teaching on Emerson. Its tone is easy and confident, friendly and inviting, and Buell's aim is to share his admiration for America's first public intellectual with a new generation of readers.
--P. J. Ferlazzo (Choice 2003-11-01)

In this book Lawrence Buell shows us why Emerson remains worth reading in our own time...What Buell has to say here about Emerson is not only persuasive but also consistently interesting, surprisingly original...and, best of all, written in straightforward, lucid language...Buell's discussion of the relationship between Emerson and his prize pupil, Henry David Thoreau, is brilliant.
--Daniel W. Howe (Common-Place 2003-10-01)

About the Author

Lawrence Buell is Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard University.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Robert S. Corrington on April 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Lawrence Buell has written a capacious, sensitive, insightful, and vigorous book on the many facets of the thinker, poet, and activist, who most clearly showed North Americans a way past our provincialisms and a path toward a deeper alignment with the depth-powers of nature. I have studied and walked with Emerson for decades, and have, of course, read a number of biographies and critical studies of his endless multi-chambered mind. Like many I came up through those interpretations that focused on the real or alleged transformation that overtook Emerson with the untimely death of his son. After reading Buell's account of Emerson's trajectory, I have changed my views on just what Emerson was trying to tell us in his later essays like "Experience" and "Fate." These essays point more toward a seasoning of self-consciousness than toward a downward sinking into an eclipse of sacred energies. They augment and reshape the essays of the 1830s rather than force an abjection upon them.
In particular, Buell carefully works through the potential and actual correlations between Emerson and nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy, especially the pragmatism of James and Dewey (but less so Peirce) and the later thought of Wittgenstein. He is, of course, aware of the writings of his colleague Stanley Cavell who highlights the, for him, fruitful interaction of Emerson and Wittgenstein. My own approach would stress the correlation between Emerson and a radicalized neo-Platonism (also discussed by Buell). Further, he goes into some detail about Nietzsche's multi-layered appropriation of Emerson's "Essays: First and Second Series.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Michael Mcfarland on December 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The general reader may well be overwhelmed by the many references to philosophers from Plato to John Dewey and William James. The author, a professor of English at Harvard University, writes in a highly academic style that the general reader must slog through with a collegiate dictionary, but the chapter "Social Thought and Reform: Emerson and Abolition" should appeal to a broad audience, as well as the first chapter, "The Making of a Public Intellecual", and the material covering Emerson's relationship with Henry Thoreau in "Emerson as Anti-mentor" is quite interesting. The general reader may feel gratified to have read the entire book, but may struggle to comprehend much of it. If you are an erudite academic with degrees in philosophy and Western literature, you might even enjoy it.

In contrast to the obtuse style of writing in "Emerson" by Professor Buell, I would point the interested reader to "Understanding Emerson" by Kenneth Sacks, professor of History at Brown University. Professor Sacks writes with a clarity that would be appreciated by any reader, and I highly recommend "Understanding Emerson" for both general readers and the more specialized student of American thought and literature.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Newhouse on February 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Prof. Buell has written a senstivie and fascinating study of Emerson. I have found it very helpful. It is seriously marred, however, by the fact that for all of his quotations of Emerson's works he cites to the volume and page number of Emerson's collected works, thereby making it impossible for a reader without access to the multi-volumned collected works (such as this reader) to know to which specific writings by Emerson the quoted statements belong. Thus, sadly and I am sure unintentionally, this study actually blocks a reader's ability to turn to Emerson himself, which I found as I read the book quite frustrating. Scholars, whatever their eminance, should know better than this. If the quotation comes from "Self-Reliance," please say so--don't just give volume and page number of the CW.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Because I was favorably impressed with Lawrence Buell's new book The Dream of the Great American Novel (2014), I decided to go back and read his book Emerson (2003).

Evidently, Buell is a life-long Emerson fan. As a result, I learned much from Buell's book.

But I also noted a few odd things.

For example, in Buell's lengthy and instructive account of Emerson's view of Self-Reliance (Buell's capitalizations), I learned that Emerson's "aim was to theorize greatness on the world stage" (page 87).

Fine. I can understand that much. But I do not understand why Buell does not even advert in passing to Aristotle's discussion of the great-spirited person in the Nicomachean Ethics.

To take another example, Buell refers to possible "platform communion" with Emerson in his public lectures (page 103). But if and when such platform communion occurs, it surely involves what Aristotle refers to as the speaker's ethos in his treatise on civic rhetoric.

When I turn to the index in Buell's book, I find multiple page references for the entries Plato/(Neo)Platonism, and E (page 394) and Socrates/Socratic (page 396). But there is no index entry about Aristotle, because Buell mentions Aristotle only in passing (for example, on page 201).

In a similar way, Buell is incisive and instructive in his various comments about the American Protestant tradition of thought. But he is silent about any possible historical sources of Protestant thought in the Christian tradition of thought before the Protestant Reformation.
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